Last updated: February 18, 2017
With its silver-tipped blue coat and striking green eyes, the Russian Blue is a glamorous breed of cat. Its looks are matched by its intelligent, inquisitive nature; making the Russian Blue a superb family pet.
The defining feature of the Russian Blue is, of course, its coat. It is not the same as a blue cat of any breed, this blue is unique. The blue should be even across the coat and the tip of each hair should be silver. This gives the coat a glamorous silvery sheen. When the coat is blown into, the difference between the base color and the silver tips should be easily noticeable. Any form of shading in the coat is considered a fault. The fur should be short, fine, and soft. A long coat is another fault.
The next defining characteristic of the Russian Blue is its eyes. Big, bold and unmistakably green; they are striking set against the blue coat.
The body shape of the American Russian Blue differentiates from its European cousins; being more slim and elegant than chunky as seen in the UK. Medium sized, the head has a medium wedge shape with large ears set far apart. While on the European Russian Blue the ears are set on top of the head, on the American version they are as much on the side as they are on the top; almost in a triangular position with the muzzle. Despite being lean, their body should still be muscular; the Russian Blue is an athletic cat.
The Russian Blue has been a part of Russian folklore for many years. English Sailors were known to purchasing pictures that showed these spectacular cats hunting mice, in addition to bringing back the cats themselves. Many of these cats were renowned for their mouse hunting abilities. The trade deals routes with Archangelsk (one of the main areas where the cats were found) became established in the mid-1500’s, suggesting that they could have been imported into England as far back as then. However, there are no official records of Russian Blues until 1860.
Surprisingly, one of the first records depicting a cat similar to the Russian Blue not just in northern and Central Russia but also in Sweden, Norway and Denmark at the start of the 16th Century.
In the UK, breeders of the British Shorthair started to use the imported blues to improve the shorthairs coat. The first Russian Blue was shown in 1880 and from here, interest in the breed in its own right soared. More cats were imported and with the help of early breeders such as Mrs. Carrew-Cox (a pioneer for the breed) the numbers steadily increased. Indeed, pictures of her early cats show they differed little to the Russian Blue we see today.
At this early stage, the cats were simply known as the Archangelsk cat. This was changed in 1912 to the Foreign Blue, distinctive from the other domestic cat breed the British Blue in that its fur was shorter and silkier. Later the first official club was formed, the Association of Fanciers of Russian Blue cats. The breed standard was adjusted slightly so that only a green eye color became acceptable and the name the Russian Blue became the official name across all cat clubs.
Similar to many cat breeds, the second world war seriously diminished their numbers as people struggled to keep and breed their pets. After it had finished, some people crossed the Russian Blues with the Siamese. However, this dramatically affected the body shape as it made the kittens more long and thin. It was only through the creation of a dedicated breeding plan and a new standard written in 1965 that the damage was undone, with Russian Blues of the more traditional type beginning to appear again.
The Russian Blue first made it to America in 1900, but again it wasn’t until after the second world war that they took off. Here, the American version starts to differ from the European version as breeders started to favor slimmer, more ‘Eastern’ type cats. They became longer and smaller, overall more elegant rather than chunky. The first Russian Blue was registered with the Cat Fanciers Association in America in 1949.
The Russian Blue is generally a healthy breed of cat with no breed-specific health problems. One point to note though is the breeds love of food; it may be necessary to watch their weight!
Obesity in cats can cause serious health problems, much in the same way that is can in people. Sadly, not all owners are responsible when it comes to maintaining their cat at the correct weight. Yet an overweight cat will have excess strain placed on the joints, plus important organs such as the heart. It will leave your cat more prone to weight-related diseases such as diabetes. Ultimately, an obese cat will also have a shorter life.
Of course, as owners, we are able to control our cat’s daily food intake. When feeding your Russian Blue, ensure they receive the correct portion size in relation to their weight. Feed treats in moderation and if your Blue is a house cat, encourage them to play to remain active.
Outgoing, playful and friendly; the Russian Blue makes a fantastic addition to the family. They form a strong bond with their owners, wanting to be around them and enjoying a fuss. With strangers, the breed can be more reserved.
Playing with your Russian Blue is both fun for them and helps to establish this bond. Bear in mind that your Blue is an agile cat, anything it can jump on will be fair game! Keep this in mind if you are especially house proud or have lots of ornaments, the Russian Blues need to explore could prove problematic in this case.
Saying this, it is still important to provide a safe place for your Russian Blue to retreat to when they want to rest. They can be spooked by loud noises; which mirrors their fear of strangers. With their family, the Russian Blue is brave and bold, yet this fear of the unknown can surface from time to time. They can be left alone if you need to work, being independent enough not to fret.
The Russian Blue is an intelligent breed and as such is very amenable to training. Litter box training, coming when called, and teaching them what furniture they can and can’t jump on can all be done fairly easily. The main thing to remember is to be consistent and reward them with praise or a treat when they have done the right thing.
When you first bring your new kitten home, they should already be used to using a litter tray. Keep them in a smaller space to start with so that they can become accustomed to where it is in their new home. They can be taught to respond to their name with the help of a treat. Start only a short distance away from them at first, close enough so that they can see the food. As they come towards you, say their name. Gradually you can build up the distance as they begin to catch on.
Of course, cats are not as obedient as dogs! Yet the Russian Blue can sometimes be trained to fetch and walk on a leash if needed. Walking on a leash can be useful if you want them to have supervised time outside. The first step is to simply get them used to wearing a correctly fitted harness. This should be a gradual process, with lots of treat rewards when they do well. The next stage is to introduce the leash. They are not likely to walk to heel like a dog would, yet can be trained to be gently guided to come to you when called. Again, using treats as a reward will be a great help.
Buying and Caring cost analysis
Taking on a new pet is a big responsibility and it is best to know how much they are going to cost you before taking it on. Costs such as the initial purchase price are generally the biggest expense, but yearly costs such as worming, flea treatment, and food also need to be taken into account. Unexpected veterinary bills are another consideration, as are additional extras such as holiday boarding and miscellaneous items such as toys.
The first major cost is the purchase price of your pet. A pedigree Russian Blue should cost in the region of $950 to $1300. This should be for registered kittens only, unregistered kittens will be cheaper, however, then you have no guarantee that they will actually be pedigree Russian Blues! Pet quality kittens will be at the lower end of the price range. Show quality kittens, or kittens that can be bred from in the future and have their offspring registered (pet quality kittens often have this prevented) will be more expensive.
Breeders will let their kittens go to their new homes at around 12-13 weeks. At this age, they will have had their initial vaccinations. Most owners tend to keep their pedigree cats as house pets due to safety concerns. If you live in a quiet area you may want to let your new kitten outside too. If so, check with your veterinarian to make sure they do not need any additional vaccinations.
If you are not planning on breeding from your Russian Blue, then getting them neutered is a sensible option. This can be done at around 5-6 months of age and will prevent them having unwanted babies. It can stop male cats spraying as they mature, a trait used to both attract females and warn off other males from their territory. Neutering females will stop them from coming into season, which can be year round in warmer areas. A female cat in season will call for a male, attracting them from far and wide. She is also at risk of developing an infection of the uterus, a condition known as pyometra. This condition can be life-threatening and requires veterinary treatment. For neutering, allow for between $50 to $150; females are more expensive than males as the operation is more invasive.
Each year, your Russian Blue will also need regular worming and flea treatments. Worming is essential to prevent a build-up of these unwanted internal parasites. For a Russian Blue that goes outside, worm every three months. For an indoor Blue, every six months should be adequate. Flea treatment should be applied monthly. This is usually a spot on treatment to the back of the neck that is applied directly to the skin. They are available online or from your vet. Just make sure they are the appropriate size for your cat, most are based on weight. Budget around $150 per year for these two treatments.
Your Russian Blue will also need a high-quality diet. Cats are meat eaters and have difficulty processing carbohydrates. Carbs are often found in cheaper diets to bulk it out, yet are an unnecessary additive to the diet. Finally, it is recommended to take out pet insurance for your Russian Blue. Veterinary medicine techniques have advanced hugely in recent years, yet this does come at a price. Although it doesn’t cover routine vet care, insurance does cover unexpected costs up to a certain amount. Shop around when deciding what provider to go for and look to see how much the excess is. Expect to pay around $200 a year for insurance.